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Dream | Escape | Read

Reviews, raves, and rants

A supplementary page to the impending reader-doom that is goodreads

Find me also at my blog, elfswood or tumblr.

Negative reviews: NOT an insult to your intelligence

also posted at elfswood


Is it just me, or does it seem like every time you write a negative review of a book, someone somewhere is going to take offence at it?

Maybe it's my writing style, as sometimes when a book riles me up enough, I tend to let the bad words fly and bitter sarcasm show. And more often than not, especially amongst my more popular reviews posted at goodreads, I'm going to end up insulting someone.

So this little post is just to clear up once and for all: my opinion of a book do not reflect my opinion of the people who like (or dis-like) it, and it is never ever in a million years my intention to give the impression that it does.


I'm fairly certain this is also true for all the other reviews out there written by other readers/reviewers/bloggers. So at the same time, this post is also a call for fellow readers to not take reviews personally. If there are reviews that attack readers personally (and I'm sure there may be a smattering of those around), then my advice is: do not feed the troll.

But this also opens up an interesting question: Why do we tend to get offended, or maybe slightly irked, when someone happens to absolutely loathe your favourite book?

Maybe answering these questions can help us understand, and later completely shrug off -- or even come to enjoy -- negative reviews of books we love.

These are just the highlights of a few comments, personal messages, and e-mails that I've received regarding negative reviews, and I think it's high time to address them.

If you continue on with the series, you will see that the character develops, the plot improves, the writing style matures, etc.

And I'm sure it does, but you have to see the double-bind that puts me through. If I loathed the first book so much, why would I spend time and money on the next books? Even if I did somehow get it for free, read it, ended up hating it just as much, and wrote yet another scathing review, people would flock to it and demand why I even read the book if I hated the first one with such a furious passion.

There is way more to the plot than you give it credit for. This character is flawed and greatly written -- they are realistic and you will find people like that in real life, too!

When I write reviews about characters, unless I specifically say that the character was unrealistic, it does not actually mean I discredit the author for writing an unbelievable character.

This happens a lot in my review for Vampire Academy, where I practically lambasted Rose for being a heroine that I simply do not like. The thing is, my dislike of a character does not mean that they are not greatly written. In fact, maybe they are so realistic and remind me a lot of real types of people out there. The real problem is simply that I do not like, would not get along with, absolutely clash, with the character in question.

Maybe some readers find a personal connection to said character. Maybe it seems as if I were insulting their best friend. Maybe they feel like twin sisters, or even a reincarnation of said character; at which point it somehow all leads to:

me ➙ hates Rose Hathaway ➙ hates you

I totally get how someone would make this connection, but they are forgetting the significantly important aspect of human interaction and how that also affects how you feel about a person. This kind of interaction you don't get with fictional characters, so I am only left with what I can glean out of the written text.

Also, being fictional, I tend to let my hatred of characters run a little wild and hyperbolic. Please don't expect me to run my mouth off the same way as I would to real, live human beings.

At any rate, I'm just a random person on the internet. What I think or may not think about you shouldn't even matter anyway.

This is a great book. Please don't persuade people not to read it just because you thought it was horrible.

This is terrible. I might not recommend a book to fellow readers out there, but I will never ever actively seek out to prevent or deter them from reading a book that I did not enjoy.

I, of all people, should know full well how tastes vary across people, across cultures, across time, age, gender -- you name it. We all have our own personal experiences that contribute to our enjoyment of a novel. I've loved books people tend to hate; and I've hated books people tend to love.

Negative reviews are not intended to discourage people from reading. I look at it as a piece of information that potential buyers could take into consideration before purchasing a product. You don't buy a notebook without looking at its specs or reading a few customer reviews. But in the end, whether or not you go through with the purchase lies solely in your hand.
Of course I realize some people will be turned off a book and not read it based on a review. I've done it a good plenty times myself; but really, that is just too bad -- and I don't mean that in a condescending tone. It's just that sometimes you pick up warning signs from a review; maybe some themes that would not sit well with you. Mine are normally overdrawn love triangles and alphole heroes, and when I notice those themes in a review, I tend to avoid the book unless it had other things that really, really attracted me.

I think the underline is that we should be more confident in fellow readers and assume they are quite capable of making their own decisions without blindly following one singular review. I know I am, thankyouverymuch.

❞ You only focus on the bad things in this review. There are also tons of positive things to find in this book.

Yeah, I plead guilty to this one, Your Honour.

There is no excuse. Sometimes I just feel a book is simply so bad that it overshadows all the positives. Sometimes I even find that there are absolutely no redeeming qualities at all! That's just how subjectivity works, I'm afraid.

Again, this should not be taken as an insult to your tastes or opinions. Simply because I fail to see the attractiveness of a piece of work, does not mean that it does not exist and other people who see it are willfully blind. For me, hotshot, alpha-male, brooding love interests are an eye-roller.... other people find that hot and mysterious. There is no wrong or right here; simply varying interests and interpretations.

Anyway, it is my review, and sometimes I choose not to point out the positives because my little soapboxing has been exhausted by all the negatives. I apologize for that, but on the other hand I also know I'm not going to change my reviewing style.

This book is great. This author is great. Just because you didn't understand it, doesn't mean it's the author's fault.

Just because a reviewer doesn't like it, doesn't mean s/he didn't understand it.

We interpret things differently. And while reviewers (okay, I) might point out where an author went wrong, you have to remember the small, little clause that follows unsaid: "where the author went wrong.... for me".
When I write a negative review and mention the author's shortcomings, I am not inferring that the author IS a failure, but in that particular aspect I am criticizing, he/she failed me.

Maybe a romance didn't work for me. Maybe a twist was predictable for me. Maybe the plot was too boring for me. But for others, it might not be the same.

This does not mean people who liked the romance are cheesy.

It does not mean people who were surprised by the twist are gullible.

It also does not mean people who enjoyed the plot are boring.

So please do not take negative reviews to be a personal insult. I think we should learn to distance ourselves from critique of a work of art. Many of the pseudo-arguments, ad hominem attacks, and unproductive back-and-forths between reviewers/readers* are caused largely because people feel personally offended that someone out there absolutely hates their favourite character/book.

Anyway. Those are just a few of the notes I've received regarding my negative reviews. Maybe other reviewers out there have experienced different reactions to their negative reviews. Let me know how you deal with it!

*note; it goes without saying that many discussions on review threads over at goodreads are in fact productive. Many fans of a book are also capable of reading a negative review without feeling offended by it, and express their differing opinions quite pleasantly. These sort of engagements are of course always welcomed.